Despite the progress made nationwide in recent years, LGBTQ youth face harassment and bullying at rates far in excess of others their age. Those incidents can lead to feelings of physical insecurity, hopelessness, and even self-harm. To provide a public show of support for these youth and their allies, October 19th has been designated as Spirit Day, a chance for all Americans to “Go Purple” and let younger LGBTQ individuals know they are not alone. We asked Kate Bishop, Education Coordinator at The LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care, to tell us a little more about Spirit Day.
Why are public displays of support like Spirit Day important for LGBT youth?
LGBTQ youth deserve to know their lives are precious! Spirit Day stands as a day of national public resistance against LGBTQ bullying, and an opportunity to send a message to our youth that their community has their backs. Adolescence can be a lonely time for lots of people, but when you feel like a weirdo because of your gender or who you love, that loneliness can be magnified. Bullies single out LGBTQ kids because the feeling of rejection is so pervasive and easy to exploit. An annual day for supporters to be visible offers a surge of validation, hope, and strength to young people who believe they are all alone. Spirit Day lets peers, teachers, school staff, families, and communities make a statement to LGBTQ youth that we see you. You are wonderful and wanted!
What educational benefits can these special days have on the public at large?
One purpose of Spirit Day is to educate the public about the alarming rate of bullying that so many LGBTQ youth still experience. GLSEN, the nation’s largest advocacy group for LGBTQ students, takes the temperature of U.S. schools every two years with their National School Climate Survey. Their 2015 survey found that, no matter how far we’ve come, more than eight out of ten LGBT students are still harassed at school each year because of who they are. Worse, 64% heard bullying remarks from teachers and other school staff! Fifty-eight percent of our youth reported feeling unsafe in school, and the same percentage decided not to report the bullying because they believed nothing would happen anyway. That hopelessness is unfortunately very warranted – of youth who did report bullying, 64% did not receive help or were told to just ignore it.
What are some creative ways that individuals can “go purple,” or help their school or company do so?
One of the best things about Spirit Day is that it is so easy to be part of it. To start, take the pledge on the GLAAD website (Glaad.org/spiritday) to “Go Purple” and show your support. Simply wear purple, the color that represents “Spirit” in the rainbow flag, or wear the “&” sign to symbolize that all are welcome and included. Dye your hair purple and post your look on Instagram! Change your social media profile pic to show your support. Use the occasion to start conversations about the devastating impact of bullying on LGBTQ and other vulnerable youth, and how everyday “bystanders” can intervene. Start a Spirit Day celebration where you work, socialize, worship, or learn, and provide participants with guidance on starting those all-important “bystander” conversations. You can also recruit classmates, colleagues, friends, and family to do the same.
Where can I go to learn more about Spirit Day?
Spirit Day was created by high school student activist Brittany McMillian in 2010, out of her dismay at the horrifying rate of suicide among LGBTQ teens. She teamed up with GLAAD, the national LGBTQ media watchdog, who have launched the event into an international phenomenon. Check out the toolkits and ideas about how to launch your own Spirit Day observance at Glaad.org/spiritday.
To learn more about The LGBT Health Resource Center’s groups and programs call 410-837-2050 x1049, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit ChaseBrexton.org/LGBTQSupport.
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